Mark Howard (1817 – 1887)

Howard Memorial at Cedar Hill Cemetery

Mark Howard was born May 27, 1817 in Maidstone, Kent, England. At 13, he immigrated with his parents and brother to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Four weeks after their arrival, Howard’s father died leaving instructions that his sons were not to return to England. They remained in Ann Arbor under the guardianship of Judge Samuel William Dexter who was the first person to purchase land in what is now Dexter, Michigan.

Howard began his career in Ann Arbor working as a postmaster, newspaper editor and, eventually, became a local Ann Arbor agent for Hartford’s Protection Insurance Company.  In 1846, Howard moved to Hartford and in 1849, he inspired confidence in Protection Insurance when he arrived in St. Louis following the city’s fire to settle claims with cash.

In 1857, the Connecticut legislature incorporated the Merchants’ Insurance Company and Howard was asked to become its president.  He accepted the position under the condition that the company would pay out qualified claims in cash.  Howard was extremely successful in running the company until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 consumed its assets.  Less than two weeks after the fire, the Protective Insurance Company and Merchants’ Insurance Company merged to form the National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford of which Mark Howard was elected president.  Under his leadership, Howard successfully argued for a dual responsibility system in which insurance rates would lower but, in the event of qualified claims, the insurance company would pay three-quarters of the loss and the insurer would pay the rest.  Howard argued that this would lead those insured to be less careless if they assumed some personal risk.

Howard was also active in politics and is credited with helping to found the Republican Party in Connecticut. After organizing a system for collections, Abraham Lincoln appointed Howard Connecticut’s first internal revenue collector.  In addition to the money he made in the insurance business, Howard made considerable profits in western land deals, thus explaining the funds he had available to create his unique and large memorial.

Howard died at his Asylum Avenue home in 1887.  He was still president of the National Fire Insurance Company and was survived by his wife Angelina Lee Howard and their four children.

His unique memorial is the most photographed memorial at Cedar Hill.  The extraordinary 18-foot tall, pink-granite pyramid exemplifies the Victorian taste for Egyptian style and ornamentation.

References:
Connecticut Historical Society. (September 1999). “Mark Howard Papers.” 
http://www.chs.org/library/ead/htm_faids/howam1887.htm.  Retrieved June 25, 2008.
The Connecticut Magazine, Vol. VI.  (1905).  Chapter: Hartford The Stronghold of Insurance, page 631.
http://books.google.com/books?id=H_ILAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA2-PA631&lpg=RA2-PA631&dq=mark+howard+-+National+fire+insurance+company+-+CT&source=web&ots=FsWvWnUifE&sig=1FdVwqzoIX8um-YKdyVT_v_Z54Y&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PRA2-PA631,M1.  Retrieved June 25, 2008.
Wikipedia.  Dexter, Michigan. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dexter,_Michigan.  Retrieved June 26, 2008.